You could compare Cadiz to a witch. She somehow manages to cast a spell over you and before you know it, you’re stuck here. And not only that, when you go away, you pine to come back. The strange thing is, you appreciate all that she gives to you but she also drives you round the bend. She’s majestic yet mundane, she inspires you but she also frustrates you. You love her and you hate her. At least that’s how I feel.
Every now and again, it’s advisable to leave Cadiz as not to go a little bit insane. A couple of weeks before Christmas, we went to visit a friend of mine who lives in up in the mountains (la Sierra de Grazalema) in a small town called Benoacaz. Her and her partner Benjamin had recently moved there and are in the process of renovating a small house that had belonged to Benjamin’s grandad. The perfect escape.
We rented a car with two friends of ours and drove up into the abyss admiring the views on the way. On our arrival in Benaocaz on the Saturday, we were surprised to see so many people. Turns out it was the weekend of “La Matanza”. Good timing! La Matanza is the ritual killing of a pig to feed a family through the cold winter months. The pig would be killed in the family home and all the parts of the pig would be taken advantage of. Prime cuts would be salted and preserved, offal would be made into stews and cold meats and the blood would be used to make black pudding. To celebrate La Matanza, some of the small villages kill a pig and the next day cook it up in the central square and feed all its inhabitants. This would be on Sunday. Lucky us!
Our two friends left us to go climbing (a good job really since they’re both veggies) and we were taken up to Bec and Benjamin’s house. We were shown around and had lunch on their roof terrace looking over the Sierra. We ate local meats and completely organically, washed down with Cruzcampo of course! We took advantage of the sun, lazing with full stomachs chatting until it got too cold that we needed to move.
So we went for a walk through the old arabic ruins at the back of the town while Benjamin told us a little bout the history. We continued up the hill where we saw spectacular views of the sunset. I started to wonder why I didn’t live in such a place.
Later that evening, there was a Zambomba in the central square. A Zambomba is a gathering of people to sing Christmas songs. This took place around a massive bonfire whilst people got merry drinking local wine. It was lovely to see all the generations of families together enjoying the festivities and each other’s company. Family togetherness is one of Spain’s most endearing qualities for me. Around 11, we went to a Moroccan restaurant and ate ourselves silly once again. Back at the house, we were lulled to sleep by the crackling of the log fire in our room. Lush.
The next day we arose late and braved showers. We had a light breakfast on the roof terrace knowing that today there would be a whole lot of pig on offer. We made our way to the central square just after midday to find that the party had already started. There were about 4 huge barbecues set up in different parts of the square each cooking a different part of the pig. Also on offer were stews being cooked in massive metal cauldrons. All you needed to do was get in there before it all disappeared! We soon realised our problem. No plates. The locals had thought ahead. I rushed to the shop and purchased the last pack of paper plates. Phew! We spent the next two hours gorging on pork until we couldn’t take anymore. Throughout the eating we were treated to some brass band music and some street theatre.
Stuffed full of pig and stinking of it we got into the car with our two vegetarian friends and exchanged the stories of our respective weekends on the drive home. I felt melancholy leaving the Sierra and vowed to spend more time in 2014 exploring the surrounding countryside.